CitySearch Pays Google $100 Million a Year?

A dirty secret in the search wars is that you can basically “buy” enough traffic via Google AdWords and other sources to jump to the top of the usage charts. In a recent ZDNet column, Donna Bogatin implied that CitySearch has done exactly that. “Industry estimates of the cost to Citysearch for its ‘partnership’ with Google have pegged Citysearch’s AdWords annual ‘investment,’ aimed at redirecting Google traffic to Citysearch, in the $100 million dollar range,” she writes.

I read Bogatin religiously because she always has such a tough spin on Google (right or wrong), but $100 million. Wow! That would probably be many times CitySearch’s estimated earnings. I batted this up to CitySearch PR to see how they’d respond. Characteristically, the PR folks wouldn’t say how much the IAC division actually spends, or even give me a ball park figure. But they assured me that the number from Bogatin’s sources is “grossly inflated.”

“We think people may be confused by our partnership with Google and others in our network, which also includes Yahoo, MSN and ASK, because we show up frequently in both organic search results and sponsored ads across many search engines,” says a PR rep. “Currently, we have a relationship with Google that not only sends traffic to Citysearch.com but to our customers’ websites as well. This product directly connects our customers’ websites to consumers searching for their type of business across our partner network. As you know, we offer our customers a broader reach than any other local advertising provider in the market and we are committed to continually expanding that reach.”